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Broadband internet has become a necessity

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The list of things that have changed in 2020 is too long to print, but education may have seen the most change as schools go to hybrid models and find other ways to teach during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those changes came quickly as educators had to figure out how to reach students when they’re not in the same building.

While some local and state leaders have seen the need to expand broadband internet access to all households in rural areas, the pandemic exposed a need that puts internet on par with power and water in 2020 and beyond.

At first, it seemed like not having high-speed internet was a choice that was made for anyone who chose to live away from other municipal utilities.

For years, people have lived happily with wells and septic tanks. During storms, power can be more spotty and can take longer to restore. Roads may not be paved because of low traffic counts.

When property owners came to the Board of Commissioners to ask for a road to be paved, the first question that came to my mind was, “Was the road paved when you moved there?”

Over time, I understood that the question was more complicated than that. As taxpayers, people see other roads paved and want theirs to be next. That makes perfect sense.

Paved roads also allow for better access by first responders, mainly fire trucks and ambulances. The outside world changes, and having an unpaved road can be no longer practical.

We’re heading in the same direction with internet. For a long time, broadband internet seemed like a luxury. Dial-up internet is available everywhere, and when that was the only option, it was adequate.

The speed we used to get while using those free AOL CDs is not anywhere close to adequate for remote learning or videoconferencing.

The world has changed. Students need quality internet access at home to take full advantage of an education in this year and in the future. There are any number of reasons a school would need to be closed. If a tornado tore through one of our schools, would we be ready to keep teaching?

We are now. Lesson plans can be in the cloud. Teachers can teach from a laptop or tablet while students get lessons on their own device. We have to support broadband expansion to make that possible.